Silly Love Song to 7-Eleven, Honorable Mention Nonfiction, Philadelphia Writers’ Conference, 2012

7-eleven-franchise-500

I always knew I loved 7-Eleven, especially on my way to work, meeting up with my Good Morning America posse gathered around the coffee like cannibals around a cauldron.

Mr. High-School Gym Teacher knocks Ms. Insurance Clerk’s purse to the floor to grab the last swill of hazelnut; Ms. Cardiac Nurse, who’s always running late for shift change, pulls the decaf out still in drip mode, sending the heating element into fitful gurgles and spits. As I shake the Splenda packet, the fake lambs wool cuff of my fake lambs wool coat catches the lip of Mr. Just-Retired-But-Still-Gets-Up-Early’s extra-large hot chocolate, which teeters…and is SAFE!

“So sorry”… “So sorry”… “So sorry”… And everyone smiles politely.

That’s why I loved 7-Eleven.

There was a time, before my move across the Delaware, when 7-Eleven was a only a stop on my way somewhere away from my house, a good-looking clapboard center-hall colonial, more silver than gray with lacy eyes, a ruby mouth and a bluestone tongue that licked the tree-lined sidewalk in Glen Ridge, NJ 07028, just a stone’s roll down from Montclair 07042, and its “big” sister, Upper Montclair 07043. And while we may not have been as high on the upland slopes of that mountain with the clear view of the New York skyline – hence mont clair – I still considered myself somewhat of an Up-per before I was a Down-er. Before the Fall. Literally. Before that skyline was forever changed, and my husband, who was a first responder, stopped responding to me. Before I bought my bleached-out blond house – that had no face – on a nondescript working-class street farther downhill in an old Italian section of Nutley 07110, not far from where Martha Stewart learned to roll out dough and where “The Little Sure Shot” Annie Oakley retired her .22 caliber rifle.

In Nutley, there was a 7-Eleven down the street at the corner of Union and Hancox, in spitting distance from my three cement front steps in a town my first post-marriage boyfriend called “Nutso,” which became his nickname for me. I called him “Cheapo” (we sounded like two Marx Brothers) because he never took me out, only stopped to bring me my favorite snack, Cheetos, from the 7-Eleven. And with its scarred and gummy pox-marked face of a parking lot, I felt like I was back in high school and afraid to sit next to the ugly girl because then I might be ugly by association.

So while I knew I loved 7-Eleven, I was now pretty sure I didn’t love having one at the end of my street…

…until one early spring day, miles from my cute and perky house in Bucks County (where I have two zip codes: one for the friends who want to mapquest us and the other for the folks who need to bill us), driving alone through my new hill towns with no GPS, hopelessly lost along old Indian trails with street names that abort and pick up again two miles later in a completely different direction, with one hand on the cell phone soldered to my ear (still okay in PA) and the other on the steering wheel, my new husband’s voice pressed:

“What do you see?”

“Cornfields.”

“Anything else?”

“More cornfields,” I said. “It’s not like there’s a 7-Eleven on the corner and I know where to turn.”

My yellow gas-tank icon was winking wildly at me. Not only had there been a 7-Eleven at the end of my block, I’d also lived around the corner from a Sunoco.

It was then I knew I’d loved that too.

Vote for Beautiful Helen

I don’t remember the Kennedy presidency, but I do remember thinking the name of the little girl in the tulle dress sounded like mine. And the two tall dark-haired Johnson girls – well, they were tall to an 8 year old – seemed interchangeable. I do recall a wedding during those years, or was it Tricia Nixon’s? No matter. And I remember the Ford daughter, whose name, I think, began with an “S,” had her prom in the White House, because that was the year of my junior prom.

Amy Carter was the first White House child to firmly land on my radar, with the media calling attention to every physical and scholastic growing pain she was having. Next, we endured eight years of Patti Davis’s celebritydom, which overshadowed big sis Maureen’s politicking, followed by only one George Herbert Walker Bush daughter, Dorothy, whom if I knew about didn’t remember till I did a Google search for this piece. And then came Chelsea, and the attention/assessment that she, unfortunately, embodied the worst physical characteristics of both parents. I decided to write this after seeing her onscreen at the DNC, stately and blond and clapping for Dad. It got me thinkin’ about my generation’s Presidential Dads and Daughters.

I never fully registered the names of George Walker Bush’s twin girls, and still identify them as the “good one and the bad one.” And Malia and Sasha Obama are still too young to cause any controversy and are well protected from public scrutiny. But give it another four years.

Ooops! I don’t mean you should vote for Obama. I would never tell anyone what to do behind the curtain. Having said that, before I go, I do offer an alternative: Helen Merolla, my mom. Disgusted with this campaign, she remarked the other night that she was thinking of sticking a sign in her front lawn that said, “Vote for Beautiful Helen.” Modesty is not a family trait, and modesty has no place in politics anyway. At 83 she has more energy than I do. An early supporter of the NAACP, she went on to become the first woman mayor of our large New Jersey township, and subsequently sat on a NJ state planning commission. Once a Democrat, she is now a Liberal Republican. So perhaps she can bring “Democrats and Republicans together to get the job done.”

Best part? A vote for Mom would bring me one vote closer to becoming First Daughter. I am decades past my prom and happily married, so no more weddings. There will be no scandalous videos or embarrassing arrests. I will take this opportunity to publicly disclose that I have a Cheez Doodle addiction.

My beautiful mother approves this message.